An afternoon at the Berlin Zoo, with kids; image of the mosaic of a giraffe near the Antilope House at Berlin Zoo; What to do in Berlin with kids
Parks & museums,  Europe,  Travel

An afternoon at the Berlin Zoo

On a recent visit to Berlin to meet our newest family member, Miss M and I spent a wonderful afternoon at the Berlin Zoo

The old elephant gates at the Berlin Zoo; the entry closest to the aquarium; shot as we were leaving after a lovely afternoon at the Berlin Zoo

Tickets

We had to wait to buy tickets – the most tedious part of our afternoon for Miss M. For some reason, we were unable to buy them online so we had a wait at the gate. Considering the price of tickets for similar zoos, the tickets price is reasonable for the quality and size of the zoo.

A little monkey, next to the glass, with his food during our afternoon at the Berlin Zoo. This monkey was mesmerized by small children, including our daughter.

History

Berlin Zoo is unique in that it is the oldest zoo in Germany. It is also the most diverse zoo in the world. It has around 1,300 different types of animals – the largest number of species worldwide!

Photo of the view across the lake towards the Antilope House at the Berlin Zoo, a view that greeted Zoo visitors 175 years ago too.

While the zoo is old, it has undergone numerous renovations over the zoo and has remained very innovative. It is lovely to watch the animals interacting with new habitats. However, some of the most well-known exhibits are also some of the oldest. These include the elephant gates and the giraffe house, which now houses tropical palms and provides information about (planned) changes to the zoo, the zoo during the wars and the fate of the Jewish people who supported or worked at the zoo prior to WWII.

The old Antelope House at the Berlin Zoo. It is still used for a couple giraffes and antilopes, but it now also houses a small palm garden and provides information on the Zoo's history and plans for the future.

Animals

One of the hippopotami during our afternoon at the Berlin Zoo. The enclosure is lovely and the animals love interacting with each other and the crowd.

With so many animals, it is difficult to pick a favourite. We had a number of close up ‘discussions’ with primates and sloth. The spider monkeys gave us both a headache with their caterwauling. We very much enjoyed watching the sea lions frolicking and the hippopotami chasing each other around and around their pool.

One of the hippopotami - viewed through the glass - during our afternoon at the Berlin Zoo. The enclosure is lovely and the animals love chasing each other and interacting with the crowd.

However, the highlight must be the pandas. Berlin is the only zoo in Germany to have pandas (and it has paid handsomely for the privilege). When we were there, panda mother Meng Meng had just given birth to twin pandas. Mama and babies were still getting to know each other behind the scenes. For visitors, the zoo showed a video of them getting measured and fed. The babies were very pink!

In keeping with Chinese traditions, baby pandas are not named or introduced to the world until they are 100 days old. We spent our afternoon at the Berlin Zoo before they reached this milestone. In December, the twin boys were shown around the zoo for the first time. The Berlin Mayor, Chinese Ambassador and Zoo Director also announced their names: Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan. They have also gained their distinctive black and white fur, though it will thicken over time.

Twin pandas Meng Xiang and Meng Yuan in a pre-Christmas shot. Photo: Zoo Berlin - https://www.zoo-berlin.de/fileadmin/_processed_/a/7/csm_Pandas_Meng_Xiang_MengYuan_Zoo_Berlin_2019__1__f54c7291e9.jpg

Panda fathers do not play much of a role in the initial upbringing. During our visit, the father Jiao Qing was conveniently sleeping next to the window for us to get a good look.

Some of the most beloved animals from Berlin Zoo do not leave Berlin, even when they pass. Knut the polar bear, who became famous after having to be hand-reared by his keeper, can now be seen at the Naturkunde Museum in Berlin.

Aquarium

Potbellied seahorse. Photo: Aquarium Berlin, https://www.aquarium-berlin.de/de/aktuelles/news/artikel/niedliche-neubuerger

Berlin Zoo is also famous for its aquarium. We didn’t visit it this time – we had seen enough aquariums recently. Still, it would have been a simple act to pay the difference in price between the combi ticket and the zoo entry ticket near the entrance to the aquarium.

The aquarium is home to some unusual sea creatures. The most recent additions are some super-cute pot-bellied seahorses. The koi pond is almost always a hit – children may even pat the koi. The aquarium also has night tours in winter. This gives children a chance to see some of the more unusual, glow-in-the-dark sea creatures.

The zoo is not the Tierpark

Don’t confuse the zoo with the ‘Tierpark Berlin’ or ‘Berlin Animal Park’. The latter is much bigger and has mostly quadrupeds, such as polar bears, bison and camels. A free electrical train also runs around the zoo every 40 minutes on weekends, public and school holidays. 

Jaguar at the Berlin Tierpark. Photo: Tierpark Berlin, https://www.tierpark-berlin.de/fileadmin/user_upload/leopard_banderole.jpg

Playground

Miss M loved the playground. It is quite large but is on par with the main playground at Cologne Zoo. It has a large area for smaller children and another area with more challenging apparatus for older children. Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of time to spend at the playground. Miss M would have liked to climb and slide for much longer.

Impressive and large playground at the Berlin Zoo, with different areas tailored to kids of different ages and abilities

In the middle of the city

The Berlin Zoo’s location in the middle of the city means that it is easy to reach by public transport. It is open 365 days a year, so it is a good option if you are in Berlin on a public holiday. However, like the Amsterdam Zoo, you barely notice that you are in the middle of the city once you are inside the zoo. 

Giraffe during an afternoon at the Berlin Zoo; Photo: Waldemar Brandt on unsplash

Our highlight

For us, the real highlight of our afternoon in the Berlin Zoo was the number of closeups that we had with animals, especially the primates, hippos and panda. Miss M sat mesmerised by these animals, chatting to them through the glass. As a result, we ran out of time for a long play on the playground. 

Black and white moustached monkey during an afternoon at the Berlin Zoo; Photo Chris Curry on unsplash

Spend an afternoon at the Berlin Zoo

The Berlin zoo is a great place to spend an afternoon. If you are lucky, you will catch a glimpse of Germany’s only pandas and have some incredible close-ups with some of the many unusual critters.

Enjoy your trip sign-off
An afternoon at the Berlin Zoo, with image of blue and orange statue 'Drill' by Peter Fechner (1898 - 1945)

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